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By Mary Fan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 24, 1998

ASUA newcomers face insider resistance

Newcomers to ASUA face hostility from those already within the organization, according to ASUA's advisor, and some candidates say they are feeling that fire as the election nears.

"There's internal stuff that limits people who don't know what the ethos of the organization are," said Jim Drnek, advisor for the Associated Students. "People get to know each other and it gets inbred, but not to the degree that it gets detrimental."

He said part of the insider ethos is a tradition that executive candidates should pay their dues and forge internal ties while they are lower on the ASUA ladder before shooting for an executive seat.

The attitude, however, may not be undeserved, Drnek added.

"If they haven't been involved with ASUA in the past, they sometimes face a lack of knowledge and a lack of information," he said. "There are procedures that may be confusing to them that are not to students who are aware because they've been around."

Undue resistance, however, may block an infusion of fresh blood and insight into ASUA, Drnek said.

"They view things differently and sometimes have new solutions to problems," he said.

Presidential candidate Joseph Sitt and administrative vice presidential candidate Michael Benveniste, who have little to no experience in ASUA, said they have felt that hostility.

"Some people are looking at me and saying you don't belong here because you haven't started from the bottom," said Sitt, who has never held a position within ASUA.

He said he felt the opposition at a meet-the-candidates forum Thursday, when ASUA Escort Service Director Brian Melvin chastised him for putting forth a plan to have the service stop renting vehicles and buy another van with the savings.

"They weren't overly aggressive, though they could have asked more questions to throw me off balance," Sitt said.

"They were more vicious with the other two candidates," he added.

A transfer student from Sonoma State University in California last year, Benveniste said he felt resistance from some ASUA officials when he tried to jump into student government last semester.

Benveniste said he volunteered on advisory boards at his former university before working as a senate aide for ASUA Sen. Mary Peterson and starting this year as a supervisor for Spring Fling.

He said he still feels the resistance now as he campaigns for an executive seat.

"In some ways, they attack the person, not the issue," Benveniste said.

Both Sitt and Benveniste said the resistance only adds more fuel to their drive for office.

Sitt said he wants to use his business and life experience to improve the efficiency of student government.

Sitt works in promotions for local bars and nightclubs.

But newcomers need to make the extra effort to research the issues or face looking foolish and being open to attack, said ASUA President Gilbert Davidson, who was a senator for two years before winning the top executive seat. After Sen. Summer Katzenbach and Melvin rebuked Benveniste, Sitt and administrative vice presidential candidate Jason Hand at Thursday's candidates' forum, however, Davidson said current ASUA officials shouldn't interfere with the campaign and elections process.

At the forum, Katzenbach and Melvin said the candidates hadn't thoroughly researched their issues and didn't understand the job description of the office for which they are running.

Melvin asked Hand and Benveniste how they could claim to be aware of the needs of programs and services if they had not contacted him. He said Sitt was wrong to suggest the Escort Service stop renting vehicles and use the revenue to purchase another van without first speaking with him.

Sitt said it was not his obligation to seek out Melvin.

"It's not my job to discuss how he runs the Escort Service," Sitt said. "If I were president then it would be appropriate for me to discuss the issues with him."

Both Hand and Benveniste said they had tried without success to reach Melvin.

Hand, who has had three years' experience holding minor appointments in ASUA, said he has not sensed any resistance to his candidacy.

Katzenbach said she confronted Benveniste because his campaign theme of bringing the campus community together was not in his job description.

Benveniste said that uniting the community was the job of the administrative vice president and Katzenbach did not have an understanding of that office.

ASUA's constitution states the administrative vice president oversees programs and services.

Sitt said Davidson has been an exception to the cold shoulders from resistant ASUA officials.

"I have the utmost respect for him," he said. "If I were elected I would aspire to follow in his footsteps."

Drnek could not recall a candidate without previous ASUA experience making it to any executive seat in his four years as ASUA advisor.

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